Jamie Lee Curtis is back, after too long off our screens, scaring us out of our wits with a mildly deranged performance, grinning inanely one minute, looking daggers the next, pawing everyone around her, talking wild‑eyed gobbledygook and refusing to shut up.
Right, that’s her appearance on last week’s edition of BBC1’s The Graham Norton Show out of the way. But what about her turn in Halloween, a sequel (conveniently forgetting all the other sequels over the years) to John Carpenter’s 1978 ‘slasher’ classic?
Curtis, who made her film debut in the original, again plays Laurie Strode, the teenager stalked all those decades ago by masked serial killer Michael Myers.
She is now a reclusive granny, semi-estranged from her daughter (Judy Greer) and desperate to set in motion a plan that she has spent 40 years refining — to kill the dreaded Myers.
She yearns for him to escape from his high-security psychiatric hospital. And what do you know, one foggy night, while being transferred from one compound to another with a group of his fellow inmates, he obliges.
The film begins, rather effectively, with a pair of persistent investigative journalists from the UK visiting Myers in captivity.
A doctor obsessed with the hospital’s most notorious inmate tells them that he has been examined over the years by 50 clinical psychiatrists whose consensus of opinion, it won’t surprise you to learn, is not that he has anger-management issues aggravated by moderate paranoia and an extreme dairy allergy, but that he is ‘pure evil’.
Soon, the eager-beaver Brits are very much regretting their trip, and Myers, in the memorable words of the sheriff in the benighted town of Haddonfield Illinois, is ‘loose with a bunch of nutbags, on Halloween night’.
There ensues a predictable sequence of events, with Myers embarking on an indiscriminate killing spree, handily facilitated by the fact that his is not the only mask in town.
Mind you, he seems to draw the line at babies and cute chubby kids on his murderous rampage, which suggests either that there is the tiniest drop of compassion in his well of pure evil, or that director David Gordon Green doesn’t want to alienate the audience.
Meanwhile, Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) is off to a Halloween dance with her boyfriend. It concludes unhappily, but for romantic rather than psychopathic reasons, and Allyson ends up walking home with only the class nerd for company through Haddonfield’s strangely deserted streets.
The stage is perfectly set for Laurie’s worst nightmare, that this ‘boogeyman’ will murder Allyson, the only person in her miserable life who seems to understand her.
Most of this is modestly unsettling rather than full-on scary, but the suspense is cranked up nicely in the march towards an overwrought denouement.
Moreover, a grim-faced Curtis does justice to her own illustrious place in the slasher-movie firmament, as not only the star of the 1978 film but also, of course, the daughter of Janet Leigh, who — as Marion Crane — came such a terrible cropper at the hands of another knife-wielding nutter in Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece Psycho.
This is certainly no masterpiece, but it might be the best of all the repeated stabs at trying to reproduce the scares of the original.
It is the second film based on the books of R. L. Stine, who has been described as Stephen King for the under-15s. The first, in 2016, was really terrific, with an enjoyably madcap performance by Jack Black as Stine himself.
This is less well-crafted, but I should think it will be quite spooky enough for its young audience.
A pair of entrepreneurial schoolboys, Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris), run a junk-clearance business. On one job they find a ventriloquist’s dummy called Slappy, which turns out to be a good deal less inanimate than they first think.
To start with, Slappy comes to their aid by turning on the school bullies who routinely torment them. But soon, armed with the supernatural ability to bring other inanimate objects to life, he is terrorising the boys themselves, Sonny’s older sister Sarah (Madison Iseman), and pretty much everyone in town.
Black turns up again briefly as Stine, though it’s the younger members of the cast who drive the story, and they do a decent job. But the first Goosebumps had a faintly malevolent charm that Ari Sandel’s film never quite recaptures.
Gerard Butler — who somehow seems to be getting squarer-jawed as he gets older — plays Joe Glass, a rugged maverick in command of a U. S. submarine sent to sort out a right old hoo-hah in Russian waters.
We first meet Glass above the surface, as he prepares to shoot a handsome-looking stag with a bow and arrow. Is he the hunter killer of the title? Nope, that’s the sub.
Besides, he hesitates, struck by the majesty of his quarry, and the fact that he (the stag) appears to be a proud husband and father.
Thus, Glass is established as tough and ruthless enough to go hunting, but also compassionate and decent enough to spare an animal’s life. That’s the kind of movie this is. A very, very unsubtle one.
It’s also a movie which presents Gary Oldman as a permanently irritable Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back in Washington DC. In fairness, he has much to be irritable about.
For one thing, World War III appears to be kicking off under the Barents Sea, where someone is firing missiles at both Russian and American subs. For another, he simply cannot get his hair under control.
No matter how long he’s spent at the Pentagon, barking at assorted admirals, he always looks as if he’s just got out of bed. The problem at the root of most of this, if not Oldman’s unruly barnet, is a megalomaniac Russian defence minister (Mikhail Gorevoy), who plans to topple his own president (Alexander Diachenko) by destabilising U.S.-Russia relations.
Glass’s job is to rescue the Russian president and blow the dastardly defence minister to kingdom come, neither of which is all that easy from a submarine. But, handily, he has the help of a doughty bunch of Navy Seals, led by a man even squarer-jawed than he is, played by Toby Stephens.
It’s enjoyably preposterous stuff, unashamedly alpha-male U.S. jingoism (despite the British leads) conducted with a certain elan by director Donovan Marsh.
The script is as ludicrous as the plot — nobody says ‘let’s go’ when they can John Wayne-ishly say ‘waddya say we get the hell out of here’.
But it’s done with such a defiant swagger that, despite all my better instincts, I liked it.